Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Simple fare

I've been thinking about the food we ate in Galicia . . .

In Pontevedra, behind the Saturday morning clothes market near the river, we ate octopus that had been boiled in a giant cauldron, snipped up with scissors and drizzled with olive oil. Simple but very good.

One evening we sat in one of the dark shadowy squares, drank the local beer and ate plates of tapas – including this sculptural pile of razor clams.

We took the bus to O Grove, once an island – now joined to the mainland by a sandy isthmus, to go to the famous Seafood Festival. It was it's 47th year, so the organisers have cracked the art of serving thousands! The system works well – you pick up a list of stalls, wander round ticking the things you fancy eating, take your list to a large raised dais with girls with computers and tills like a bank and pay for your selection in return for vouchers, then at leisure you take the vouchers to the stalls and swap for plates of freshly prepared seafood . . . brilliant.

Oh, and you eat the seafood with bread washed down with wine, while standing up at high wooden tables, to the accompaniment of the Gallician bagpipes . . . here's a flavour of that heady mix . . .

Back home, sadly we don't have easy access to fresh seafood, but there was another Galician staple that inspired me to cook a simple peasant dish – Caldo Gallego.

I drove to the next village to visit my favourite local butcher . . .

He'd put aside one of the key ingredients – trotters, four for £1. I asked him to split them so all the goodness would cook out and make a delicious jellied stock flavoured with vegetables, herbs and garlic.

Instead of chickpeas I soaked some of my home grown Poletschka beans and added then to the boiling stockpot.

I poured off two litres of the stock to use to make soup at the weekend and removed three of the trotters before adding diced potato, shredded cabbage and chopped chorizo to the pot. I adjusted the seasoning and added a sprinkling of hot smoked paprika (a great holiday purchase).

Tonight's supper – my version of Caldo Gallego – simple, cheap and delicious :-)

Thursday 21 October 2010

Christmas Fairs 2010

In between illustration commissions I'm working on the stock for my stall at three local Christmas Fairs . . .

The Linton Christmas Gift Fair on Saturday 6th November
This will take place on the same day as
the popular Farmers’ Market. There will be over 30 stalls, a Christmas Grotto and Cakes and Refreshments. The event starts at 10am and finishes at 4pm.

The Mayor’s Appeal Art Fair in Saffron Walden Town Hall on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th November
This is an established event organised by Saffron Walden Arts Trust to raise money for local charities chosen by the mayor, this year money will be donated to
Shake-A-Leg Theatre Company and Carver Barracks Injured Fund. There will be a private viewing with refreshments on Friday 12th November from 7.30pm to 9.30pm, tickets are available from Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre and cost £5 each, all money from ticket sales will go to the chosen charities.

Withersfield Christmas Bazaar Saturday 4th December, 2pm to 4.30pm
A traditional sale of Christmas treats in the
Village Hall at Withersfield, there will also be tea and home made cakes.

If you live nearby they are great events to find locally made art, craft or food and produce – perfect for making Christmas shopping really special without fighting through the high street crowds.


Wednesday 20 October 2010

Yay!!! there's a sketchpad in my phone!

I've never been a big user of my mobile phone – yes, I've owned a mobile ever since they were the size of a packet of custard creams but I've never got excited about them and never downloaded a ring-tone or anything like that. When we moved to Suffolk twelve years ago, the choice of networks was limited to either A: no coverage in our village or B: there is a slight signal if you stand outside and jump up and down. Consequently I'm not into texting and if someone texts me it can be days before I get the message.

But . . . technology has moved on, a phone is not just for texts (or even phone calls). I'd heard a rumour of people actually sketching on their phones – and as a bit of a techie/geeky/digital-artwork-nerd, I got ever so slightly excited. So, when I was asked what I wanted for my birthday I asked for one of these.

It didn't take me long to add the Brushes app and I was all ready to sketch ;-)

Here's the first sketch I did from our hotel room in Santiago, looking down into the courtyard of the Parador.

And another sitting in the shade under the pine trees on the island of Toja looking across to O Grove.

I'm not alone and even David Hockney's hooked on Brushes too!

What a useful little box of tricks no bigger than a bar of Green & Blacks! Oh, and I can read your blogs on it too ;-)


Tuesday 19 October 2010

Squares and arrows

The second part of our holiday in Galicia was spent in Pontevedra – about half way between Santiago de Compostela and the Portuguese border to the south; it's on the coast at the end of a Ria (a long, deep sea inlet) which shelters it from the Altantic Ocean.

The people of Pontevedra have 'hanging out in squares' down to a fine art! Young and old, they're all there for morning coffee or a lunch time bottle of wine . . .

a cup of thick hot chocolate in the afternoon and for beer and tapas in the evening . . .

or just to sit in the sunshine and chat with old friends . . .

Peeping at the people in the squares below is the pretty little Peregrina chapel; the story is that Mary the mother of Jesus came on pilgrimage to the tomb of St James at Santiago, she stopped along the route from the south at Pontevedra and blessed the town. The chapel's ground-plan is in the shape of a scallop shell – the symbol of the Santiago pilgrims – and inside, above the altar, stands the figure of the Virgin of the Pilgrims dressed in her wide brimmed hat and wearing a dark blue velvet cloak embroidered with stars.

The weather was good, just right for a good long walk in the country; we decided to head south to find the pilgrim route that leads eventually to Portugal and although we weren't sure of the extract path out of town, Cliff was confident that he could sniff out the path!

Once we'd navigated around the railway tracks and the tangled knot of a motorway/road junction, we found the clue we were looking for . . .

Once you've got you're radar tuned to the yellow arrows then the scallop shells can't be far away . . .

We knew we were definitely on track when we came upon this road-side crucifix, wearing a cloak and pilgrim's hat.

Our reward was sun and views over the distant hills rising to the Iberian border country.

And eventually a view of the next Ria. We sat down and ate a ripe peach, perched on the granite outcrop surrounded with heather and listened to the sound of someone playing the Galician bagpipes in the village of Paredes, far below.

We turned back and returned to Pontevedra, walking along the sunny lanes bright with willow trained in arches that sprout bright orange stems ready for the basket makers.

Returning to to the buzzing squares of the town via the lower, meandering river-side route which took us right into the centre and our comfortable apartment.

Saturday 16 October 2010

It's not all about James

Of course Santiago is what it is because for over a thousand years Christian pilgrims have walked the Way of St James across Europe to the tomb of the apostle at the heart of the cathedral, it's still the same every day in rain or sunshine – a snaking line of weary walkers and cyclists, believers and those just curious to experience gently hugging the silver shoulders of St James.

We chose not to join them, satisfied with wandering the cobbled lanes, up and down the steep flights of glistening granite steps and through archways and shadowy colonnades; although by complete fluke one evening, we were swept inside the cathedral with the flow of people (there are signs about 'no tourists during services' but no-one seems to bother!) and realised the mass was in progress – we found ourselves standing next to a pillar with a thick rope tied around it. As the congregation finished receiving the sacraments, six men dressed in burgundy robes appeared and proceeded to untie the rope – they were the Botafumeiro swingers – if a cathedral is going to have a party trick then make it a big one! What follows is a mix of incense, smoke and gasps of surprise from onlookers as the dust-bin sized silver thurible sweeps past in a 65 metre arc across the heads of the congregation, almost reaching the ceiling of the trancepts to either side.

In the squares surrounding the cathedral, St James gazes down from countless vantage places, dressed in his wide brimmed hat with a scallop shell pinned to the front and holding his wooden walking staff as similarly dressed pilgrims trundle along the narrow lanes of shops where they can buy scallop shells made from every material imaginable.

Spanish baroque architecture in all it's curly swirly magnificence, encrusted with lichen and moss, towers all around and older medieval statues and gargoyles peep out of archways and from under balconies.

But that's enough of pilgrims for now . . .

We looked around the Museo Do Pobo Galego (Museum of the Galician People), full of very thorough displays about the local culture. I particularly liked the exhibits of traditional trades which were beautifully displayed. The museum is housed in a 14th century convent and it's worth visiting just to see the triple helix staircase.

From the airport bus we'd spotted a large construction site on the skyline just outside Santiago, it looked like a large dry ski slope was being built, but later we discovered that it is the new City of Culture of Galicia, we'll have to make a another trip to Santiago when it's completed.

On one of our longer walks through the parks and hills around the town we spotted this building, again we wrongly guessed its use – thinking it was a sports centre with a climbing wall! In fact it's the HQ for the General Society of Authors and Editors (SGAE) – somehow I think that dinky urn on a plinth in the foreground isn't part of the architect's concept, or is it meant to be ironic?

Inside the curved 'box' is a vast smooth wall with cleverly disguised doors in it (we peeped in one and there was an office inside). Can you guess what the wall is constructed from?

It's made of stacks and stacks and stacks of empty clear plastic CD jewel cases – now, there's an idea for recycling!

Friday 15 October 2010

I wandered off for a while . . .

Hi there! I've been away for ages . . . and some of you probably twigged that I'd wandered off somewhere. In fact I've only just got back this afternoon and just after I landed at Stansted Airport, a big fat illustration brief marked 'urgent' landed in my email in-box – so it looks as if the holiday is over before I've even unpacked!

I'd love to tell you about some of the things I found on my travels but you may have to wait a little while until I have some time to sort the photos out. However here's a taster of where I went to first, Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain (and before one of you asks me, no, I didn't walk there).

A few weeks ago I celebrated a big birthday (five - 0) 'you only live once' . . . so, Cliff and I booked into the Parador. It rained a bit . . . that's what it does in Santiago in October . . . but hey! it's romantic rain . . .

I'll pop back soon,